Knowing how to grow spiritually is not as easy as it might seem. Spiritual growth begins with faith in Jesus Christ as a Lord and Savior. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, not of water but of the Spirit. Spiritual growth is spiritual. It is not natural. It is the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ in word, thought, attitude, and deed. It is loving like Christ, thinking like Christ, communing with the Spirit and the Father like Christ. This is how we grow spiritually.
It Begins with Salvation
The Bible teaches us when we pray and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit, but what is salvation? What does it mean to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Scripture teaches us that we are saved by faith and saved by Christ and these work together. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we know that even demons believe in Jesus Christ so this faith is not simple belief in the existence of Christ. It is more than believing that He came as the Son of God, died on a cross, and rose again. Demons do not have faith in this, they know it to be true. Salvation is more than this.
We must believe that Christ is the Son of God, sent by God, for a sacred exchange. The Bible says Christ took the punishment of sin for the world. And those who put their faith in Christ are credited with righteousness or perfection. We must believe that there was an exchange so that all of my sin was placed upon Him and all of His innocence was put on us. So that when He died on the cross, for those who put their faith in Him, their sins have already been punished. God being a just God will not punish us again when our sins have already been punished.
Salvation is accepting this in our own mind and heart. It is not simply believing that it happened, but believing it happened for you and for me and for whosoever would believe that we might have everlasting life.
Salvation is Proved by the Way We Live
In the book of James, we are taught that faith without deeds is dead. In other words, when a person truly believes in Christ, it changes the way they live. They live according to what is true rather than what they feel. For example, let’s say someone commits a sin and they feel guilty. Their guilt may cause them to get down on themselves, to become depressed, to think less of themselves. Living by faith, however, will cause someone to live by what is true. The truth is that they are forgiven. Their sins have already been punished and now God will not hold their sin against them. Instead, by faith, they will choose to believe they are forgiven and be reminded of the love God has for them even when they sin. This will move them to feel valued by God compared to feeling like a failure for their sin. Living by faith changes the way we approach life.
Spiritual Growth Requires Faith in the Promises of God
As we start to live by faith, we need to not only accept the salvation afforded us by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but then we must believe that He has saved us for a reason. His purpose for our life is to reveal His goodness, His love, His mercy, and His power. We become ambassadors for Christ representing Him. God’s desire to reveal Himself to those who do not believe is through the goodness He will produce in our life. When others see the abundant life we are living as we give glory to God for that life, it attracts people to God. Remember, God wants all to be saved. He saves us from the punishment of our sin, but then we become part of His plan to rescue others from their sin. This goodness is brought into our life through the promises of God. What many do not understand is that the promises of God are if/then statements. God says, “If you do this, then I will do that.” Faith for salvation is simply a belief of the heart, but continued faith that will grow us spiritually means keeping our part of the promises.
Let me give you an example. Many are familiar with the Scripture that says God will give us a peace so grand that it transcends understanding. It is a perfect peace. It is a peace that doesn’t make sense considering the chaos of the moment. But God’s promise to give us peace requires us to pray with petition. In other words, we keep praying about whatever negative situation we are facing. And the promise requires us to pray with thanksgiving. In other words, we must take on an attitude of thanks for our problem. We reframe it in our mind to realize that the problem is causing us to pray more and thus spend more time with God. We reframe it realizing the problem gives God an opportunity to shine. We reframe it realizing the problem gives us an opportunity to increase our faith so that we keep believing even though we still have not received an answer to our problem. When we do this, THEN…God gives us a peace that transcends understanding.
To Experience God's Promises, We Need Help from the Holy Spirit
When we accept Jesus Christ, the Lord gives us the Holy Spirit in a new way. This is the Spirit of God, the 3rd person of the Trinity who is the presence of God living within us. The Holy Spirit, present in our mind and heart, gives us understanding of these promises. Suddenly, we can understand on a higher level what the Bible is trying to teach us. The Holy Spirit comforts us when we are going through difficult times. He gives us strength to keep going until God brings deliverance to our circumstance. The Bible says the Holy Spirit replaces fear with power, love, and self-discipline. He removes fear and gives us the self-discipline we need to live in the power and love of God which changes our life and all those around us.
Connecting with or living by the Spirit is not easy, but spiritual growth cannot happen without the Spirit. We are bombarded daily with temptations plus our life experiences have created confusion and convolution about basic constructs of life. Our life experiences have implicitly taught us how to define things such as love, marriage, the role of husband and wife, sexuality, forgiveness, and more. Our physical body can also at times get in the way. The more we satiate our physical body with things like food, sex, exercise, drink, success, fame, social interaction, the more our spiritual hunger for God is diminished. These things work to replace God in our spirit. This is why the Apostle Paul said that we must discipline our body so that it does not negatively affect our ability to commune with God spiritually.
The Goal is Transformation to be like Christ
As we learn how to commune with the Holy Spirit and live according to our faith, we are transformed. We start to think different, act different, respond different. Most importantly, we start to love as Jesus loved. Love is the power of God at work through us. God’s love is not the same as what we understand love to be. We must learn what it is and we must be transformed by the Spirit in order to begin to love well, more and more like Jesus.
We are Transformed by God as We Learn from Others
Jesus is the Son of God, but He is also God, the 2nd person of the Trinity. Jesus said about Himself that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the way or lifestyle that is true compared to the alternative presented by the world’s system that leads to this abundant life that reflects God’s goodness that others may seek Him. Jesus is also referred to as the Word just as Scripture is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit though is the one who teaches us using the written Word of God and the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ and His example. The Word of God is then also referred to as the Sword of the Spirit. All of this is telling us that we must learn from Jesus, taught by and transformed by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God.
But then the Bible says that we need to increase our faith and faith comes by hearing the Word. In other words, we grow as people, more mature in their spirituality than we, teach us. The Holy Spirit works through them as they teach the Bible and spiritual disciplines in order to help us grow.
3 Steps to Spiritual Growth
- Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Simply say, “Jesus, forgive me of my sins, come into my heart as my Lord and Savior.”
- Start praying. You may think you don’t know how to pray. We can learn how to pray more effectively. But for now, just start talking to God. Tell Him how you feel, the desires of your heart, and ask Him to transform you.
- Develop a Spiritual Growth Plan that includes a) Reading the Bible b) Going to church c) Daily Spiritual Disciplines
Join my online Spiritual Growth Group
Sign up for my daily devotions. These are short emails that look at a passage of Scripture then help you understand it then apply its truth to your life. Then like my Facebook page and join my Facebook group called Pastor Lee Biblical Life Coaching.
May the Lord bless you and help you grow in knowledge, love, and grace to live the abundant life He has planned for you.